Bit or Bitten – What’s the Difference?

Verb conjugation in English is tricky enough to give many writers fits. Between irregular verbs, alternate spellings, and idiomatic holdovers, there are simply so many exceptions that even veteran writers are bound to make a mistake at some point.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t set ourselves up for success by learning as much as we can about difficult verbs.

The verb bite follows a relatively simple conjugation structure, but because nothing can be easy, there are also irregularities in the past tense. When should you use bit, and when should you use bitten? Luckily, there is an easy way to remember.

What is the Difference Between Bit and Bitten?

In this article, I will compare bit vs. bitten. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see them in context. Plus, I will show you a useful memory tool that will help you choose either bit or bitten, when appropriate.

When to Use Bit

bit versus bittenWhat does bit mean? Bit has many uses, but in this article, we are mostly concerned with it as the past tense of the verb bite.

To bite is to grab hold with the mouth, whether for the purpose of eating or to inflict a wound with the teeth.

Here are some example sentences,

  • “James bit the babysitter tonight,” Iliza told her husband, who frowned in consternation.
  • The snake that bit Cameron was a European adder, and although he was in great pain, he did not die.
  • “That bug bit me!” exclaimed the surprised tourist.
  • A fox that bit a woman and attacked a cat in Fairfax County on Wednesday has tested positive for rabies, police said. –The Washington Post

When to Use Bitten

Definition of bitten definition and definition of bit definitionWhat does bitten mean? Bitten is the past participle of the same verb. It is used to form the perfect and progressive tenses of bite and can be used as an adjective, as well.

I have included a few example sentences here,

  • Amadeus had already bitten into the apple when he noticed a worm inside it.
  • Despite the witch healer’s best efforts, the bitten girl died in the night.
  • Having already bitten the dentist and her assistant, Mark had run out of easy targets.
  • A teenage boy was bitten by a police dog and taken to hospital after escaping from juvenile detention last week, a senior youth officer has told the royal commission, pleading for the centre’s security to be upgraded to remove the “temptation”. –The Guardian

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define bitten and define bit Now, let’s go over a trick to remember bitten vs. bit.

Bit forms the simple past tense of the verb bite. Both bit and bitten can form the past participle, although bitten is standard and much more common in contemporary English. Bit still appears as a participle in certain set phrases, like bit his tongue or bit her lip.

However, in general,

  • Choose bit for simple past tense
  • Choose bitten for past participle.

Since bit rhymes with other simple past verbs, like hit, lit, and quit, you can use these rhymes as a reminder that bit should be simple past tense.

Summary

Is it bit or bitten? Bit and bitten are conjugations of the verb bite, which means to grab hold with the mouth.

  • Bit forms the simple past tense.
  • Bitten forms the past participle.

Bit rhymes with many other past tense verbs, like hit, lit, and quit, so by remembering these rhymes you should have little trouble remembering when to use bit.

If you get stuck choosing bitten or bit in the future, you can always check this site for a quick refresher.